MLB
September 3, 2012 posted by Matthew Dewoskin

2012 Fantasy Baseball: Leaders and Laggards xFIP Revisited Laggards Edition

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Jeremy Hellickson, SP, Tampa Bay Rays

If any of the guys on this list are actually featured on your fantasy team, well, it’s probably not to early to start planning for next year’s draft. Guys on this list are punching bags that have bloated ERAs, inflated WHIPs, not delivered wins and are incapable of helping with K’s. It would be nice to write that this list is chock full of guys that you need to consider for 2013 and there are some legit sleepers out there. It would also be nice to write that the average annual salary for fantasy baseball writers was in this high six figures, but not all of us can be Tony Cincotta. The pitchers on this list are mostly guys you need to cross of your draft board as soon as possible. “Now” would probably be a good time.

Some men lag, while others lead. Not everyone can win a Cy Young. Wait. Barry Zito is the first name on this list. Anyone can win a Cy Young, apparently. This is the laggards  half of this week’s leaders and laggards.

1. Barry Zito 5.18
2. Jeremy Guthrie 4.88
3. Ubaldo Jimenez 4.84
4. Aaron Harang 4.79
5. Ricky Romero 4.76
6. Jeremy Hellickson 4.66
7. Henderson Alvarez 4.59
8. Ervin Santana 4.59
9. Bruce Chen 4.54
10. Kevin Correia 4.53

It should be no surprise that Barry Zito has the highest xFIP among starters who qualified. He’s not very good at pitching and hasn’t been for years. He strikes out too few(5.15 K/9) and walks too many(3.69 BB/9). He basically gets by thanks in large part to hoping hitters hit baseballs directly at defenders. He’s been competent this year because he’s been lucky enough to post a .270 BABIP. Zito is a stay away in almost every format.

Jeremy Guthrie isn’t as bad as his numbers suggest. His actual ERA is a half point over his xFIP. His BABIP is almost 30 points over his career average, but what keeps him from being useful in fantasy baseball is his lack of K’s. His 5.16 K/9 simply isn’t useful in a fantasy league at this stage of the season.

Ubaldo Jimenez is doing a great job pitching his way out of the league. Hitters tell pitchers when they’re just not the same anymore. Ubaldo is giving up line drives 23.9% of the time and his average fastball velocity is only 92.7 MPH. He’s a stay away in most formats unless he can wake up and start throwing 95 or 96 again. He’s been a little unlucky with a .317 BABIP and a 13.1 HR:FB ratio(both are career highs), but his lack of stuff is more likely the reason than just simple bad luck.

It’s almost a guarantee that Aaron Harang will wind up getting drafted too high next year. He’s been competent with nine wins and a 3.76 ERA, but his luck stats are screaming regression. His xFIP more than a point higher than his actual ERA. His .279 BABIP is over 20 points below his career average and his HR:FB ratio is 3.0% lower than his career average. He’s going to annoy a lot of fantasy GMs who think they’re getting a bargain in the late stages of next year’s drafts.

Ricky Romero’s 4.94 BB/9 makes him virtually and actually unownable in most formats. His 4.76 xFIP when compared to his 5.50 actual ERA indicates he’s been a victim of his defense and bad luck. Sure, he probably has, but he’s also walking almost five batters every nine innings. Romero is still getting the ground balls he’s always gotten(2.03 GB:FB), but his BABIP is 50 points higher than last year. Remember when we said a .242 BABIP for a ground ball pitcher was unlikely to be sustained? It was, but Romero might actually be a decent buy low candidate for next year. It’s hard to see his value getting any more beaten up than it is now. His xFIP claims his numbers are likely to be better than they were this year. He’s worth at least a flyer next year.

Jeremy Hellickson is the antithesis of the sabrmetric movement in baseball. He doesn’t strike out very many(5.76 K/9 this year), walks too many(3.03 BB/9) and somehow gets by with a lower than average BABIP(.223 last year, .254 this year) for a pitcher who posts a 41.1% GB %. He’s due to regress at some point and it will be very ugly when it happens.

Henderson Alvarez is essentially Kevin Correia with slightly worse luck on balls hit in the air. None of that sentence is either a compliment or an endorsement. He doesn’t strike out nearly enough batters to matter and he owns a 17.3% HR:FB ratio for his career. Alvarez might not be long for Major League Baseball.

Ervin Santana has had a weird season. He’s giving up more ground balls than ever(1.32 GB:FB ratio), but his BABIP is a crazy low .246. He’s posting a higher than average HR:FB ratio, but he’s basically giving up the same number of homers as always. He’s just giving up fewer fly balls. His 4.59 xFIP claims he’s pitching better than his 5.32 actual ERA, but why isn’t it showing up in his BABIP? Either way, a pitcher with a 6.07 K/9 really isn’t much more than waiver wire fodder. Santana is a stay away in everything but the deepest formats.

Bruce Chen is still in the league in 2012. That’s amazing. It just goes to show that there will always be a need for a lefty capable of throwing six innings no matter how ineffective he may be. Chen’s pitched better than his 5.13 actual ERA would indicate, but he still suffers from being Bruce Chen. He’s a spot starter in deep leagues and waiver wire fodder just about everywhere else.

Kevin Correia is not ownable in any format, no matter what his xFIP says. Stay away. Far away.

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